If you’re in the event planning world then you already know that the revenue from an event sponsorship can make or break your event. A solid grouping of event sponsors can be the difference between delivering an elite event or having to scale back, cut corners and compromise on your vision to stay within your budget. Sponsors have become so critical to the event industry, that most events wouldn’t even be possible without their sponsorship dollars to make them a reality.
Unfortunately, securing event sponsorships can be just as challenging as organizing the actual event itself. Mostly because the skill set for putting on a great event is completely different than the skill set needed for closing the deal with an event sponsor. The former requires a balance of logic and creativity, with an eye for detail to execute a complex event involving many moving parts. The latter relies on the power of persuasion and empathy to develop an enticing package custom fit to the target sponsor. Furthermore, the sponsor is in fact your client, and closing a client requires sales skills, an inherent trait of most event planners, yet overtly causes a sense of fear and panic when it comes time to get them to sign on the dotted line.
Therefore, we set out to calm your fears about locking down an event sponsor with some helpful tips for event professionals.
#Start early & be proactive
Since you’re not going far without cash, securing event sponsorships should be priority numero uno on your checklist. Give yourself at least 6 months before your event date to start identifying potential sponsors and closing key partners. In most cases, sponsor companies are large organizations, aka they are really, really, really, really, ridiculously slow moving. If you don’t already have a contact inside, you may even need to navigate their org chart to find the decision maker. Then, getting their funds wired to your account can be bureaucratic battle that will test your nerves, patience and goodwill towards humanity. However long you think the process will take, double it.
While we’re on the subject, you need to put yourself out there and setup face-to-face meetings. If you think you’re going to close a $10k sponsorship with a snazzy PDF, you’re sorely mistaken. At best, your sponsorship pitch deck will land you a meeting, but getting facetime with the decision maker may take weeks, so plan ahead.
Pro Tip: Decision makers work harder than everyone else. Therefore, call them before 8am or after 7pm. You’ll have a much higher chance to reach them when their secretary isn’t there to screen your call.
#Match your value with their budget
First, make sure your top-level packages are limited to only a few sponsors, and the less expensive packages have room for more partners. For example, you may have 1 Diamond partner, 3 Gold, and 5 Silver partners, but then open it up to 20 Bronze partners at a much lower price point. This tiered structure will position your high level sponsors as VIPs and you can offer them larger booths, more branding opportunities, guest passes, and other additional add-ons
Then, start spreading the word that the sponsorships are being sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. This creates a sense of urgency and gives you more leverage during the negotiation stage. You’ll be surprised at which companies end up taking a higher package once they see their time is running out.
Pro Tip: Use popcorn pricing. Next time you’re at the movies check out the price of popcorn. Small is $4, Medium is $7 and Large is $8. No one ever buys the medium popcorn because for only a dollar more you get a jumbo bucket bigger than your car. Use the same psychology for your sponsorship pricing.
Give the sponsor what they want: to get in front of your audience. Including them in your email communication, putting their logo in a highly visible spot on your website or mentioning them at the start of your show are all well and good, but those tactics are easily dismissed by your collective audience’s short attention span. Instead, create ways to get your sponsor in front of your audience within the event. Whether it’s a panel discussion, a creative workshop or even a keynote address – as long as their content is authentic and well-aligned to the rest of your event (aka, not a sales pitch), your attendees will be happy.
The key element of delivering value is creating ways for your sponsor to tell their story. That’s what will ultimately leave a favorable impression on your audience and bring the most value to your key sponsors.
Pro Tip: Display a Meetmap of your event in a highly trafficked area. A Meetmap automatically creates additional value for your sponsors with increased visibility, but what makes it unique is the way it incorporates each sponsor as a key partner of the event and provides useful analytics of their exposure and brand interaction.
#Don’t mess up the end game
When’s the best time to secure your sponsor’s commitment to your next event? During the current event! If you’ve done your job, selected the right sponsorship partners, made good on your promises and delivered value then everyone’s going to feel all warm and fuzzy during the event and the week immediately following it.
That’s when you strike!
Set up a meeting with each of your sponsors DURING your event for no later than 7-10 days after your event. Tell them you’d like to review their experience, get their feedback and make sure that your next event is even more valuable for them.
See what we did there? In sales, that’s called the assumptive close. Don’t think of event sponsorships as a one-time deal. These are long-term partnerships you’re creating. You worked hard to earn their trust and their investment, why would you ever let that go to waste? If you don’t secure them for your next event now, chances are you’ll be starting from scratch next time and who knows which way the winds of fortune will be blowing then.
Pro Tip: To close the deal, offer them an exclusive discount on a the same or higher sponsorship package for your next event if they commit right away. This is where you’ll find out how they really feel, because if they were truly happy with the partnership, they won’t have any issue committing to the next one.
While finding and securing sponsors is critical to putting on a great event, you can’t always go chasing the money. In the end, all successful sponsorships should add value to the attendee’s experience. If you’re not always acting with your audience in mind, then you risk diminishing your event’s value and damaging your brand. However, if treat your event sponsors as partners and create win-win relationships, word will travel and you’ll have no problem securing your first choice in sponsorships for your future events.